ADDRESSING THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN VIRTUAL AND ACTUAL EXPERIENCES: A METHODOLOGICAL DISCUSSION ON HYBRID ETHNOGRAPHY

Katleen Gabriels

Abstract


This paper addresses an empirical based understanding of how residents of Second Life (SL) structure in-world moral life. Moral culture is constituted not only by what people do, “but how they explain and justify what they do, the stories they tell, the principles they invoke” (Walzer, 1987, p. 29). In order to gain understanding in how residents make sense of in-world morality and in the consequences of virtual experiences on their actual lives, a long-term hybrid ethnographic study was conducted (2012-2013). In doing so, this study sought to conjoin a strong grounding in moral philosophy with user studies on moral behaviour and ethical reflection in SL.

This paper’s primary focus lies on a discussion of hybridization and its methodological implications for ethnography. Reflecting on empirical experiences, the alternating movement between virtual and actual ethnographic participation and how it affects data gathering, conventions, and the relationship between researcher and informants is elaborated on.